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Spinning Records - Thoughts on Vinyl

A different sort of blog post today. This blog post is about records, those novelty-sized circles that became very cool again in the past few years.

This might offend some people, but hear me out: vinyl is not the epitome of HiFi. The music requires a lot of processing just to get it on to the record. That includes applying the RIAA EQ curve and compressing the bass, as well as summing everything below about 200Hz to mono. That's just at the studio end.

At the listener's end, we have to make sure the needle is in good condition, trust that the pre-amp's EQ curve matches the studio's, find a pre-amp that has the correct input impedance, make sure the tracking weight and bias is all set up correctly, and then there's still pops, crackles and background noise which will only get worse the more you play it.

That's quite far removed from what happened in the studio.

Digital music has none of those problems. It just works, and it's cheap and easy to get good sound with digital files. You can also store thousands of songs in your pocket, and access millions more from that same device. Most headphones are pretty good these days, too.

These days, since a lot of studio work is done almost entirely within a computer, the digital mix copied straight to a CD or hard-drive must be the highest fidelity, the closest to what the artist intended.

All that said, I like vinyl very much. There's an age-old ritual which brings a sense of occasion to the music. Digital files are writing on a screen until you play them. Vinyl is a big disc that you've got to handle with delicacy and while the needle is on the lead-in groove, you can take a look at the album art or the inserts, maybe read some of the lyrics or check out which mics they used in the studio (or is that just me?).

To me, vinyl is bordering on magic. I've got a plastic circle spinning around, and there's a tiny needle being dragged along it. Against all the odds, it still does a good impression of music, and I think that's brilliant.


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